“Saoirse” is an old Irish girl’s name meaning “freedom” or “liberty”.

Proper Rechristening of a Sailboat

She has a new name! I can now stop referring to her as “the boat”, “my Orion”, etc. I can’t say the old name – it’s been officially retired to the realm of Neptune – and it was also completely embarrassing to say out loud.

Rechristening without offending the sailing gods

I did all of this with the boat in the water (where it should be), and first had to take down the old name. It was vinyl lettering, so all it took was a little heat from a hairdryer to peel off.

Safety precautions: 1) tie off the hairdryer to the stern pulpit so you won’t drop it in the water (success on that front); 2) remember how to safely get into a dinghy (unsuccessful).

I guess it had been a few months since I boarded a dinghy and that whole thing about keeping your center of gravity low seemed to elude me, and I did a backflip into the Pamlico River. At least I had just showered; I’d hate to dirty the river with my filthy body.

Retiring the old name

The boat, after removing the old name from the transom.

The boat, after removing the old name from the transom.

Taking down the old lettering was a lot easier than I thought.  Heating up one corner of each letter allowed me to get my fingernail underneath it and just peel it off the transom.

The letters left a few problems behind.  There was a nice outline of dirt and grime around the old letters, but this was easily removed with boat soap and a rag.

There were also some shadows – where the gelcoat on the rest of the boat had oxidized, the finish underneath the lettering did not.  I was able to remedy most of this with some 3M rubbing compound.  Later I’ll polish and wax the entire transom, lettering and all.

I did one final cleaning with glass cleaner before applying the lettering for the new name…but first, the boat had to be de-named.  Didn’t I just do that?  This is the only part of my life where I’m superstitious.  Is renaming a boat bad luck?  I don’t think so, if done under the guidance of the gods of the sea.

I had scrubbed the boat to remove any mention of old names inside and out, and couldn’t put the new name on until the following ceremony was complete.

So with a $50 bottle of Champagne in one hand, I read John Vigor’s denaming ceremony out loud in front of my new friends at the dock.

”In the name of all who have sailed aboard this ship in the past, and in the name of all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke the ancient gods of the wind and the sea to favor us with their blessing today.  Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves in or on the waves; and mighty Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before them: we offer you our thanks for the protection you have afforded this vessel in the past.  We voice our gratitude that she has always found shelter from tempest and storm and enjoyed safe passage to port.  Now, wherefore, we submit this supplication, that the name whereby this vessel has hitherto been known as (censored), be struck and removed from your records.  Further, we ask that when she is again presented for blessing with another name, she shall be recognized and shall be accorded once again the selfsame privileges she previously enjoyed.  In return for which, we rededicate this vessel to your domain in full knowledge that she shall be subject as always to the immutable laws of the gods of the wind and the sea.  In consequence whereof, and in good faith, we seal this pact with a libation offered according to the hallowed ritual of the sea”.

And with that, I tossed an ingot into the water bearing the old name of the boat, and poured some really good Champagne into the river from east to west.  The girls were cringing.

Anointing the new name

And the new name is on!

Getting back into the dinghy with the new lettering, I rowed over to the transom and prepared to apply it.  I knew that the chainplate for the backstay would be in the way, but it still worked out just fine.

After some finessing to make sure it was level, I took the backing off of the vinyl and squeegeed it onto the transom.  The paper was removed, and voila!

”Saoirse” (pronounced sur-sha) is an old Irish girl’s name meaning “freedom” or “liberty”.  I thought it was fitting.

With that, I rallied the neighbors, headed back on the boat, and poured even more Champagne on the bow, proclaiming “I name this ship Saoirse and may she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”

And that is one of dozens of renaming a sailboat.  Everyone who does it differently will tell you that “their way” is the only proper way to do a sailboat renaming ceremony.  I’m no different.

Seems to have worked out for me so far.

Did I do it right?

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